Rochester, NY - Any Monday

I'm home. In that weird holding pattern that happens as I wait to be dispatched to AWAY. AWAY is that fabled land of silence and work and sleep. HOME is where the noise is. The adult children clambering around the house at all hours, the dog ticking her long-clawed sandshoe across the hardwood. The rolling of Mom's knee-scooter as she chonks about the house trying to stay busy. Home is chaos and cats and carefully measured words and happiness by way of maelstrom. I love HOME. I love AWAY too though.

Mom ate a stinkbug. She had just finished her spaghetti dinner as she watched tv, and thought there was still an ample-sized globule of meat on her plate. Without really looking, she reached down with her fingers and grabbed it, popping into her mouth with relish as Vanna White uncovered an "A" and everyone in the living room freaked out simultaneously as the puzzle became obvious. Then she bit down. The first sign that something was wrong was that the "meat" crunched when she bit it. Then came the horrible bitter flavor of bug. I'm told it's bitter by the knowledgeable source anyways. She shouted as she spitted it out. By the time she was done explaining, I was in tears. She sat there looking dolefully at the crunched carcass of the bug with her tongue hanging out.

That is the essence of HOME.

AWAY is different. AWAY is memories. AWAY is space. AWAY is thoughtful reflection. AWAY is connected to so many vivid vistas of "before". AWAY is where you go to feel different things than HOME. I think that is so deeply ingrained in me that the longing to be AWAY is impossible to avoid. I struggle with it.

I'm sitting at my desk at the office. There's nothing on it but the laptop. The fish tank is burbling quietly, and on the other side of the room people are having conversations I can't make out. I should head to the back soon and build something. Turn on some Superorganism and work with my hands. That'll keep me busy. That's another thing I am at HOME that I'm not when I'm AWAY. When I'm here I'm always looking for something to do...when I'm AWAY I'm content doing nothing.

Gilroy, Santa Cruz, and Half-Moon Bay, California - Day 4

We say goodbye to the homeless encampment, the lawnmower graveyard and the infinity of wayward cats and head to Denny's for breakfast. Someone once said "Denny's is never where you go, it's where you end up." but no one told my traveling partner, because he always planned to eat there. The waitress station was right behind us. They're speaking rapid Spanish and laughing and it warms my heart. Good people working. While we begin to wade into our eggs and pancakes and toast and bacon a dishwasher comes from the back...coming off his first shift. The woman are peppering him in bursts of high and bubbly Spanish and he blushes. The manager is coming into work as the dishwasher leaves. He welcoms the boy to his first shift, making sure he knows where to park. He dismisses him with a thick handshake out into the morning brilliance. Outside, the air is still and cool and the clouds congeal against the mountaintops in the near distance.

Across the table, he's grunting and eating and not talking again. That's okay. The coffee tastes good and warms the corners of my still-sleeping self as it spills into me.  The mug  reads "Rome wasn't built in a day, but maybe if the had coffee..." It makes me laugh how terrible that is.

Today we are driving through the mountains and up the coast. We share a love for vistas and driving apparently. We strip off our coats and sweaters, so that we're in t-shirts and roll out of The Garlic Capital of the World and head off into the mountains.

We don't talk much as we rise into the clouds. The temperature drops and there's an oasis of conversation around where the defog is located on the rental car. We share small stories occasionally when the silence begins to thicken, but mostly we're doing what drivers and riders do. He's traveled extensively both for the company and on his own. He's nice. I may not have known that, were we not sitting in the same car for prolonged periods. I thought he just WAS before this. Now his life takes a shape and a form as he describes it to me. I talk about mine.

The mountains fall behind us and we roll into Santa Cruz. The boardwalk is closed so we walk to the pier. It would be thick with tourists if it weren't a weekday and early, but right now it's got that deserted beauty that comes with salt smells and waves churning against the pylons. It feels like the end of the world and that suits me. The ocean lays all around out into infinity.

We move on. Up the coast with trees and rocks and mountains and sea. For hours on end we only talk about how beautiful it is. The tang of the ocean saturates this land. The tall yellow grasses wave in the breeze as the turmoil of the surf talks over itself. Surfers peel off their wet suits as they stand dripping by the sides of their cars, the dust soaking up the salt water. We stop at Pigeon Point to explore the lighthouse, hostel and for a bathroom break. The half-broken cars with blankets over the backseats snuggle against the weathered hostel houses. The next generation of coastal explorers and drifters bunk together inside, reeking of cannabis and patoili and optimism. Each bunkhouse has a name; "Whale" and "Pelican" and "Dolphin". The lighthouse looms over it all, lording over its domain. We watch the fisherman and the sea lions play in the froth, exploring every inch of the outcropping before we return to the car.

On to Half-Moon Bay, where we drink beer and eat fish tacos and talk football with the barman who laments the state of the San Fransisco and Oakland teams. My companion enjoys a few fingers of old scotch that looks and smells like smoke as he swirls it under his nose. Time has stopped now. The desire to go anywhere fades with the beer-fueled warmth spreading through my body. We laugh with other patrons about jokes I don't remember as tourists amble past the open door looking out onto the thoroughfare.

Later we stop at a beach and watch the surfers and the children play in the waves as seagulls wheel overhead. The day is nearly over and our long flight home lies ahead. I can't stop watching the surf though. It takes me far away to the south. To another surfside motel where I was once truly happy.  That place is lost to me now and I hate thinking of it. But only sort of. I love the memory too. It's warm and loving and I was blessed to have lived it. It's a bittersweet and good ending to my day.